Humber site to host processing facility for ‘rare earths’ that are key to batteries used for storage and wind turbines

Pensana Rare Earths has announced plans to build the UK’s first rare earth processing facility at Saltend Chemicals Park in the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership. The company has submitted a planning application for the $125M facility, the FT has reported.

The processing facility would become one of only two major producers outside China of rare earth oxides used in the manufacture of powerful permanent magnets used in the offshore wind and electric vehicle industries. The other is Lynas Corporation of Australia, which has a facility in Malaysia. Despite their name, so-called ‘rare earths’ are not necessarily scarce, but chemical separation is  more difficult than for most other metals.

Pensana is about to start development of an Angolan mine, Longonjo, and bring it online as the first major rare earth mine in over a decade. It will import mixed rare earth sulphates from Longonjo and process them into separated magnet metal oxides at the new plant.

Wood Group and Pensana are working with the px Group, which manages the site, to finalise a scoping study for the proposed facility. The Saltend Chemicals Park is a cluster of chemicals and renewable energy businesses including BP Petrochemicals, Ineos, Nippon Gohsei and Air Products, strategically located on the Humber estuary, the UK’s busiest ports complex.

The 370 acre site, which is managed by the px Group, has had £500 million of investment over recent years. The px Group provides a range of services including power, water, reagents, waste disposal, centralised control and administration.

Px group chair Paul Atherley said: “The Saltend Chemicals Park offers an exceptional range of services allowing us to plug into power, water, reagent supplies and services and to recruit a highly skilled local workforce at internationally competitive rates.

It is very clear that it is no longer acceptable for British and European companies to import the raw materials critical to the Green economy from unsustainable sources.

The Saltend facility has the potential to become a world class producer of rare earth oxides and to help establish a sustainable supply chain for the manufacture of powerful permanent magnets critical for the offshore wind and electric vehicle industries in the UK and Europe.”

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